Meet the communities 'overburdened' by massive housing increase
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:24 29 November 2019
Communities doubling in size to meet housing targets have blamed the planning system for inflicting unsustainable growth upon them.
Suffolk and Essex have undergone a major increase in house-building over recent years - but the scale and pace of delivery in parts of the region has left some communities saying they feel "overburdened".
MORE: Number of new homes built each year needs to DOUBLE to meet targets
And with house-building set to increase further in line with councils' 'local plans' - some say they have already reached their limit.
Woolpit in Mid Suffolk has already seen 170 homes approved. With 300 more in the planning system and overall targets for 727, the village could grow by 76%.
Parish chairman John Guyler said while residents supported housing, they felt some communities had to do "more than their fair share".
"As a village, we feel we're going to be overburdened by what's coming through," he added. "We also feel the smaller villages, further away from the A14, should have a few homes - in fact, many of these villages want additional housing but are unlikely to get it."
Mr Guyler said the biggest problem posed by growth was increased traffic. "We already have a very congested village centre," he said. "It's an old village with quite a few traffic problems so increasing the population by 76% is only going to make it worse."
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The parish council's response to MSDC's housing targets said Woolpit would be "overwhelmed" and "turned into a town".
Other communities facing large-scale growth are also producing neighbourhood plans to have greater say on their future.
Thurston - which could double in size with around 1,000 new homes approved - voted 96% in support of its neighbourhood plan at a referendum in September.
Parish chairman Chris Dashper said the village had already grown more than any other in Suffolk and it was vital MSDC took account of its plan when considering future applications.
"It seems we are just addressing housing targets but not doing anything to make communities sustainable," he said. "There's no infrastructure coming with these developments, there's no commercial or retail space and no community facilities."
Mr Dashper also said the growth could see the village's 'barrow' railway crossing closed due to safety concerns over increased use.
"These are the sort of long term issues that have not really been addressed," he said.
Elmswell, another A14 village, is facing growth of 37% in the next three years - with a further 105-home application yet to be decided.
Parish clerk Peter Dow said MSDC's previous failure to meet housing targets by demonstrating a five-year land supply had left it vulnerable to developers. He said the planning administration was "overloaded and underfunded" while infrastructure lagged behind.
Missed housing targets in Suffolk Coastal also led to a flurry of applications, which are now beginning to have their impact.
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Framlingham Residents Association (FRAm) formed in opposition to two large developments in the town in 2014. Although the applications - for a combination of more than 350 new homes - were rejected locally they won appeals at the Planning Inspectorate and have almost been completed.
FRAm chairman Christopher Sharpe said the commercial market had been left with too much say in where to build new homes.
"As Framlingham was seen as a desirable place to live, it's where the developers thought they could make more money and so they were bound to build here," he added.
"The system is broken because we're too dependent on the goodwill of developers doing what they say they will, while planning departments seem to be fairly toothless in enforcing anything."
Framlingham Town Council's planning chairman Simon Garrett said the sudden increase in population had put "enormous pressure" on infrastructure.
He said there was particular concern that with only one Ipswich bus service it was impossible for people to live in the town without cars, which was driving young people away.
"Rural towns and villages are facing a rapid rise in the age profiles of the population and lack of public transport simply increases the problems," he added. Mr Garrett said the planning system was ineffective at reflecting communities' views.
"There is inevitable conflict between the large housing targets and the near universal community view 'not in our back yard'," he added.
What councils say
Councils say their local plans can offer communities "greater certainty" about where future housing will be built.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council, which has faced criticism over the numbers of new housing proposed, said it had a statutory duty to meet government targets.
The councils said they were held to account over the targets, which are 420 homes a year for Babergh and 556 for Mid Suffolk.
"Balancing this need for growth, together with protecting and enhancing the environment and improving infrastructure is key to our planning strategy," a spokesman said, "That's why we're producing a new Joint Local Plan, so we can be clear over the deliverability of appropriate sites and give greater certainty over development across our districts up to 2036."
East Suffolk Council also said its Local Plans for Suffolk Coastal and Waveney would "ensure appropriate development for the wider district".
The councils say they now have a five-year land supply.